Ossining Children’s Center Celebrates Rich History of Women’s Empowerment

Women's History Month Ossining Chiidren's Center
Photo Credit: Sassafras Marketing

OCC Share’s stories of Supporting Women during Women’s History Month

Ossining Children’s Center is celebrating their rich history of women’s empowerment during this Women’s History Month. The Ossining Children’s Center was founded by the women’s association of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1895 as the Christ Child Day Nursery and Bethany Home. At that time, Ossining was home to many widowed immigrant women who wanted to work to support their families, but “day care” did not exist.

A group of visionary women created one of the first day care centers in the country. Under the direction of an education-credentialed headmistress, the care provided at the Center was educational rather than custodial in nature. Since its founding, the Center has emphasized the education of the whole child—the entire emotional, social, physical, and intellectual being.

“Ossining Children’s Center has aimed to support women of every socioeconomic status since our inception,” said Howard Milbert, executive director of Ossining Children’s Center. “We know that families and mothers have to make difficult choices regarding their careers and we do our best to provide an inclusive environment for all women.”

OCC’s Fearless Females and Female Supporters

Edith Baker was involved and committed to Ossining Children’s Center for more than 60 years. She played a leadership role in seeing the Center through difficult times and in running pivotal projects in the Center’s history. She served as board president four different times. In 1948, Edith Baker was among the Board members who believed strongly that the childcare program was an important service to the community. Edith, herself, was a working mother. She had served as treasurer of her father’s company for many years. When the existence of the child care program was threatened, Edith spearheaded the “Sponsoring Committee” which took over responsibility for running the child care center. A special campaign raised the needed funds, the Board of Education gave the use of space in Park School, and the Ossining Children’s Center was incorporated as a separate entity.

From 1955 through 1961, the Children’s Center ran a summer camp, first on the Kress Estate grounds in Ossining and later on the King’s College Campus in Briarcliff Manor. Edith was the leadership behind that program. In 1963, Edith led the Children’s Center’s participation in the United Way, which has been a major source of support for the Center since then. At the age of 58, Edith went to Columbia University to earn a master’s degree in Economics. At the age of 60, she became a stock broker and joined her husband’s brokerage firm. Together they built a significant business. She continued to work until the age of 88.

Although Edith passed away in 2004, her legacy lives on. As the Children’s Center now is about to embark on a new expansion project. OCC is grateful to Edith Baker for her knowledge of shrewd financial management and passionate commitment to the community.

Jessica Yanqui-Zhinin found herself pregnant at 17. She wanted to finish high school and to go college. When she was accepted to SUNY Binghamton, she did not anticipate she would be able to attend, but Jessica didn’t want to be another statistic. Fortunately, she found the Ossining Children’s Center. At OCC, she not only found a village but an extended family. When Jessica dropped her daughter Nube off in morning, she knew Nube was in loving hands. The caring teachers gave Jessica constant support helping with everything. The office door was always open offering more shoulders to lean on. Ossining Children’s Center gave Jessica the stability and support to earn dual masters’ degrees. She is now a teacher at Ossining High School.

Howard Milbert, Executive Director of the Ossining Children’s Center, has spent his career advocating for children and parents, especially low-income working parents who are striving to improve their families’ economic situation. He is known throughout New York State as a public policy expert on and advocate for high quality child care.

The Future is Female:  OCC Today and Looking Ahead

Child care is a vital factor in a woman’s ability to be a productive worker, and thereby being able to improve her family’s economic security. For more than 50 years, the Ossining Children’s Center (OCC) has been in the forefront of advocacy for public funding for child care.

Thanks to advocacy by Ossining Children’s Center families who spoke at the Northern Westchester 2019 Budget Hearing, Westchester County recently re-opened the “Title XX” Child Care Subsidy Program, which had been closed to new applicants since 2016. Title XX makes child care subsidies available to families who make slightly more than the income ceiling* for the Low-Income Child-Care Subsidy Program.

Currently, two Ossining families have applied for Title XX child care subsidies from the Westchester County Department of Social Services to help them to keep their children enrolled at OCC.

The Ossining Children’s Center has been involved in public advocacy for child care funding since the 1960s. The Center’s Executive Director at the time, Sally Zeigler, led the formation of a child care advocacy group that was the precursor to the Child Care Council of Westchester.  Ms. Zeigler was the founding Executive Director of the Child Care Council. Since Sally Zeigler’s time, the Ossining Children’s Center has continued to play a leadership role in advocacy for children and working parents.

*Income ceiling for families seeking a “Low Income” child care subsidy:

$50,200 for a family of four. 

Income ceiling for Title XX: $55,475 for a family of four.

Ossining Children’s Center creates a foundation for children’s life-long learning, achievement and well-being by providing high quality educational child care, and by serving as a community resource and advocate for families. For more information, visit www.ossiningchildrenscenter.org



1 Comment

  1. It is heart warming to see this article about my grandmother, Edith Baker. I grew up hearing about the Ossining Children Center, and how busy my grandmother and mother Betty Baker were there. I had no idea of Edith “Buuny” Baker’s extensive role in the founding of the center. She was a trailblazer in so many ways, and helped make the title of working mother an honorable one. Although mothers of all classes and ethnicities have been working since the beginning of time, women like my grandmother made society see our value and contribution. The world is a better place because of daycare centers like OCC. Mothers are the first teachers, and when mothers leave their children in the care of compassionate, trained teachers children know they are treasured and loved. I am a proud working mother who went to pre school, and started my career as an educator in a day care center.

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About the Author: Alain Begun